GLAAD President Wants to Know ‘What the Hell is Going On’ at AP with Guidance on Gay Married Couples?

Last week we reported on new guidelines sent out by the Associated Press, indicating that the words "husband" and "wife" should only be used to describe married gay couples if the couples themselves describe themselves that way, or if someone uses the term in a quote.

ApThey wrote:

SAME-SEX COUPLES: We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves “husband” and “wife.” Our view is that such terms may be used in AP content if those involved have regularly used those terms (“Smith is survived by his husband, John Jones”) or in quotes attributed to them. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association subsequently published an open letter to the AP saying it found the guidance "troubling".

The AP then told Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner that it is holding firm:

AP spokesman Paul Colford told BuzzFeed Thursday evening, "This week's style guidance reaffirmed AP's existing practice. We've used husband and wife in the past for same-sex married couples and have made clear that reporters can continue to do so going forward."

Now GLAAD is taking a tougher line on the AP, demanding a "solution that carries more weight":

Without official clarification in the AP Stylebook, many reporters and editors – including those not with the AP – could look to the above paragraph as guidance, and would therefore apply that harmful double-standard to same-sex couples who are married.

We are well past the point of needing clarification to that one section of that internal memo. We need a solution that carries more weight. The AP should codify, in the official AP Stylebook, what seems (in practice, if not in that paragraph) to already be its preferred terminology for same-sex married couples.

Said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick:

"The AP needs to quit obfuscating and delaying and must fix its style guidance now so that reporters describe people in same-sex marriages accurately. That the Associated Press has let this issue drag on for a week is completely perplexing. What the hell is going on over on West 33rd Street?"


  1. Jose says

    I’m married in Mass. And been married for years with my partner.

    Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be called married, or have to request people call us a married couple. We’re married, and worked hard to ensure we would be. Give us the respect you’d afford a straight couple and identify us as we are…a married couple.

  2. Fensox says

    God I hate this fake controversy. If you read what the AP wrote, it says you need to establish context! AND YOU DO.

    John’s husband…


    Kelly’s wife

    less so! Kelly can be a guys name or a girls name. It’s just about writing clear statements. They don’t care to push some agenda. When they got rid of homophobic they did so to be less ambiguous about bigots. Anti-gay says in no uncertain terms that the person is not for gay people.

  3. Marty says

    There’s a double standard with coining one term for legally wed hetero couples and another for legally wed same sex couples. Separate but equal, even in language, is not cool. No matter how it’s sliced.

  4. Steven H says

    @Jose: “[I’ve] been married for years with my partner.”

    Right, but the AP isn’t refusing to say “married” or “married couple”–it’s not refusing to use any terms at all–the AP is simply saying that same-sex married couples often use the term “partner” to refer to their significant others, and that reporters should do the same unless the couple says otherwise.

    It’s really hard to quibble with AP when you yourself refer to your husband as your partner!

    I think this is generational; as a millinial, I will (hopefully) one day have a husband, but older generations of gay couples do still use the term “partner.” I’ve made this mistake myself.

    I introduced my boss’ partner to my parents as my boss’ wife… only to have the record corrected shortly thereafter.

  5. Kyle says

    @Fensox If a piece never clarified Kelly’s sex, then it’s probably just as irrelevant whether Kelly has a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage.

    This rule can’t be about clarity, because it permits any description. All a reporter needs is some source (that the reader won’t necessarily be aware of) that sets an explicit precedent for the terms husband or wife and marriage for a given same-sex married couple.

    The rule basically advises a reporter to default to “partner” and “couple” for a known same-sex married couple until evidence exists that a given married couple uses appropriate terms for their marriage.

    The rule is more about irreverence for same-sex marriage than for anything practical.

  6. Greg Cali says

    I don’t buy the argument that they did it to avoid confusion for readers. That doesn’t add up with reason and logic. A story has it’s own narrative and a reader getting confused based on who is what, is due to poorly coherent sentences. Not because a same sex married couple was called “his husband”

  7. Strepsi says

    @ STEPHEN H: But to your example, marriage for gay people AND straight people is a FACT. Tbey are or theyt aren’t.

    To avoid a double standard, AP should have said that “ALL partnered straight couples AND gay couples should be called “partners” until it is established they are married.”

    See how easy that was?

  8. Bill says

    @Fensox: in addition, AP articles are republished in various newspapers nationwide. An article about a same-sex couple might be read by someone living in a state that won’t even provide civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, much less marriages. For a nationwide audience, you need to account for such differences by making what you write unambiguous.

  9. RHR IN TN says

    @ Bill. A legally married New York couple featured in a news story is still legally married, even if the story is read by someone in Kansas. Ambiguity is not an issue.

  10. Just A Fan says

    There is something in a name. And there is something in acknowledging a sanctioned married couple is a married couple, without them having to beg you to. Even if they are of the same sex.

  11. Duration & Convexity says

    Ratbastard…stop posting all these defenses for AP, under 50 million handles. We know it’s you. You’re making the same points as you made in the other thread about this story. You’re too obvious.

  12. J.J says

    Thank you GLAAD and various gay and lesbian organizations for taking issue with this policy by AP. I found it suspect as well and am very thankful we have the backing of groups to want more clarification over why this happened, and point out how petty it is.

  13. Suck It says

    LOL I love how gay people taking a stand for our treatment as equals really is working the last good nerve of a few of the trolls on here. My favorite being “fake outrage” who responds to every gay story with a cliche response that it’s fake outrage by gay people. GOD I LOVE KNOWING it’s killing you all that gays and their organizations are standing up for ourselves. MmmMmm it feels good :)

  14. SIOX says

    This is one time I really support GLADD.

    Associated Press has been trying to show it’s rear as it relates to GLBT, and this was one too many eye brows being raised.

    A gay married couple is every bit a husband and wife.

  15. Victor says

    I’m married and proud of it. My husband- catch that? husband and I will be celebrating 8 years soon. And we haven’t called each other ‘partners’ since the days we used to introduce each other as roomates to strangers. Circa early 90s.

  16. Hugh-CA says

    I would actually be very, very offended if either my fiance and I got called partners. Who suggested we like that word? We certainly didn’t, so I don’t know why or how some people think they can slap the word ‘partners’ on all gay couples. No thank you.

  17. Francis says

    It is not a non-issue, Fenrox and UDontknow. Same-sex marriages are just that, marriages. The terms for couples in marriages is husband and wife. They are not “couples”, they are MARRIED. They are husbands and wives. AP is avoiding using the terms “married” and “husband and wife” with same-sex couples, even when they are legally married. That is wrong and promotes second-class standards.

    Glad that GLAAD, NGLJA, and John Aravosis among others are making noise about this. This is disgusting.

  18. Portal Entro says

    I HATE the term partners.


    Stop. Just stop with that nonsense.

    It was foisted on us by heteros not comfortable knowing we get romantic. So they deemed us ‘partners’….(gag).

    We need to cut that out.

  19. UVA says

    I have one partner. A business partner. That’s one partner enough for me.
    When I get married, I’ll hopefully have a husband and when I do, I’ll proudly refer to him as such, much like all other well adjusted married couples. It’s called life.

  20. LipstickLesbian says

    Last time this topic was brought up, the only people who opposed objections to AP mandating this silly policy were those who argued that gay relationships are very different than straight relationships and a man can never have a husband, because it’s silly and gay people should be happy enough they get to call each other married (true story. and verbatim too)

    So uhm, as a single dude, who hopes to be married, Ima go ahead and side with National Association of Gay Journalism and GLAAD on this one. I don’t want my thoughts aligned with people who adopt a “gays, you stay in your own lane now, you’re way too queer for us”

  21. Kevin Alonso says

    Love is love. Marriage is marriage -between two grown consenting adults- and a husband is a husband and wife is a wife, regardless of gender they are married to. 2013.

  22. STR8 Ally says

    Something really sweet and charming about hearing my uncle call his spouse his husband. I don’t know what it is, but it does endear you to their relationship, and at least in our family, them referring to one another as married and husbands really helped with the normalcy of it all. Partner just made them seem a little too abstract for our family to accept. Husbands almost forces you to realize that’s what they really are, and ultimately come to terms with it, as the older generations in our family did.

  23. JJ says

    I found @Victor’s comment very insightful. AP might just as well have said call same-sex spouses roommates. The double-standard and insult is even more obvious then. Their policy is typical goal-post shifting. We fight for rhe right to marry and be treated equally and when we win they say your marriage certificate isn’t enough. The fact that you call each other husband or wife isn’t enough. We won’t recognize you as such unless you “have regularly used those terms.” How many minutes does a straight couple have to be married before AP will call them husband and wife? And when does AP even bother to ask straight spouses if they call each other husband and wife?

  24. Jackson says

    I worked too hard, campaigned, fundraised, and being lebanse just being out alone took courage, but to marry the love of my life and now have to debate calling him my husband is ridiculous. He IS my husband, and if you got a problem with that, than you’re no better than the westboro church in my book. Same sense of entitlement to tell me what my relationship is.

  25. DaLurker says

    I wonder who designated partners for same sex couples? Like was there an official memo from a leading organization that signed off on it? I only ask because of the MANY same sex couples, lesbians/bisexual and gay that I personally know, none call each other partners. Most make fun of the term partners, and have some amusing punchlines for it. It’s not a universally accepted label for all or even most gay couples, so it is a bit awkward that we have to basically all carry it in so many various settings.

  26. Randy says

    There’s no confusing. Wife is wife, husband is husband. That’s it. If the AP can’t even get that simple thing right, why bother with anything else they write?

  27. TempleTempest says

    You can’t argue in one sentence that marriage is important because words mean something and calling our marriages civil unions is unfair


    say “you know, we’ll accept calling our married significant other a partner.”

    It just makes no sense to me. Then why not settle for civil unions? If it’s about differences, and different wording being subjected to gay couples then doesn’t the argument that civil unions should suffice stand too?

    (mind you, I’m opposed to civil unions, for marriage equality, and believe same sex couples should own being married and calling themselves husbands and wives because I feel it strengthens the scenery of your bond. I really do. That’s just me.)

  28. GregV says


    “Kelly’s partner” is MORE ambiguous, not less so, than “Kelly’s wife.”

    Reading the latter, I know that we are referring to the woman to whom Kelly is married.
    Reading the former, I just know that Kelly is paired with someone who may be male or female and may be a marriage partner or a common-law partner or a business partner or a dance partner or a partner in a law firm or for a duet in a singing competition or in a bridge tournament, etc., etc.

    Whether Kelly is a male or female, if it’s even relevant at all, would have to be mentioned in the article because just mentioning Kelly’s “wife” or partner,” or “husband” or “spouse” or “apartment” or “car,” without a pronoun, we don’t know Kelly’s sex.

  29. says

    Exactly, GregV: It’s a mystery to me why some people seem to think the AP policy adds greater clarity when it does just the opposite, since partner is both genderless and ambiguous because some partnerships are romantic,some are not, and the word reveals nothing about legal status. The default words–and the clearest ones–for married gay couples should be husband and wife, unless the couple uses a different term. (The same would apply to a married straight couple.) The AP, and some commenters on these threads have it backwards. And my husband agrees.

  30. andrew says

    I use to contribute to GlAAD and HRC and a couple of other gay organizations until I read in my local gay newspaper how fat the salaries of their Chief Executives are. Now I just contribute to my local LGBT Community Center where the staff work very hard and make modest salaries.

  31. Just_a_guy says

    Kyle is correct. Further, the AP is encouraging and legitimizing bigotry. Even if we charitably read the statement as arguing for clarity, the bigotry is still inherent: Why should there be a need to clarify that a spouse is a same-sex spouse? When the sex of the spouse is relevant, it would be explicit anyway. But to make it standard protocol to always “clarify” when a spouse isn’t opposite-sex is to always treat same-sex marriages as lesser unequal less-fully-human “marriages.” I.e. always “clarifying” a same-sex marriage as not opposite-sex puts quotes around the marriage (“marriage” versus marriage).

    It reminds me of the now-resolved old dilemma of “Mrs.” or “Miss.” In a professional context, claiming that the “clarification” matters is at least improper. Likewise, any rule to always “clarify” a same-sex marriage as not opposite-sex is at least improper.

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